Every once in a while you read a book that just changes you or your perspective. 10 years ago for me it was 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. After reading that book, I stepped back and looked at the way I treated the people in my life, even the ones who just pass me by for a moment and wondered to myself, “Am I adding to the list of things in their life that doesn’t make life worth it anymore? Am I adding to the list of things in their life that does make life worth it?” I wanted to always try to make the answer that I was adding joy to people’s life, or at the very bare minimum, not making it worse.
Then, here I am, working at Chapters (#indigoemployee holla!) and there is this book coming out that a friend of mine received and advanced copy of and I hear that it was just so good and so important. I marked it on my “to-read” list on Goodreads and vowed that I would read it this year. Fast forward to the beginning of July and I’m sitting on a conference call with Harper Collin’s, representing my store with their marketing team, and I hear that there’s a chance that I’m going to get to meet this author in the fall. I had to step up my game and read it by the end of summer, and here we are.
For those of you who follow me on instagram or facebook, you’ve probably already seen my post, but for those who didn’t, the book is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
This is one of those books that no matter your background will make you think. The story follows Starr Carter, a sixteen year old black girl who lives two lives. She has grown up and lives in Garden Heights which is considered “the hood” but goes to school at Williamson which is in a rich and predominately white part of town and a bit of a drive from her neighbourhood. There are a lot of issues in her neighbourhood, drugs, gangs, you name it. The story opens up where she’s at a party and ends up leaving with one of her old friends who she hadn’t seen in a while, and when he’s driving her home they are stopped by the cops.
Unarmed, Starr witnesses the murder of her friend at the hands of a white cop, and the repercussions that follow are huge. There are protests, and riots, the story making national news. This is a story that may be fictional but very heavily based on some very true stories coming out of the US with police brutality and the deaths of young black men. Now, if you’ve known me for a second, you know I’m quiet and not vocally political, but damn this story is so needed right now.
Me, a white girl, so white that when you turn the lights off, I’m probably still glowing. I grew up going to a Jr. High where half of my school’s population were black, so I might not be completely unfamiliar with this story, but I will tell you right now, I, in no way have been able to relate because I am white. I don’t feel the struggle that Starr Carter or any black person feels because of their race, I acknowledge that I’m in a privileged position to never have to understand that struggle. This book though, this book is letting me look through the eyes of a young black girl, and it’s breaking my heart. I’m still never going to truly know what the black community goes through, but having this story, this perspective, I hope, will make me a more compassionate person who puts bravery on and stands up for injustices.
The thing about books is that people who read tend to be more compassionate people because they are always seeing the world through the eyes of other people, even if they’re fictional. I’m seeing this world where Starr lives, and I know I would be straight up terrified to live there, and here she is, standing up against police brutality, standing up against the murder of her friend. She is a character that I can look up to because she has gone through some tough things before she’s even eighteen years old and she’s handling them. It’s a book like this that we need to be getting into the hands of everyone, just so that they can see this perspective of what the life of someone they feel like that they could never possibly relate to. Just to see that we’re all human, and we humans, we can do crappy things to other people but that we have the ability to be the change.
Please friends, if you are white, don’t just look at this and say, “Naw, it’s a ‘black book’ I ain’t interested.” I’m telling you right now, you are doing yourself a disservice and you’re doing your brothers and sisters an even bigger disservice. Read it. Honestly, do it and I hope and pray that it helps to give your perspective. You don’t have to go out and be an activist after you read it, (though, that would be cool) and you don’t even have to LOVE the book, but I honestly think it’s so important and that now that it’s out, it should be read in schools, and the conversation it centres around talked about.
Just to add, the story does use a lot of slang and “words them young people use” (like dab?) and there’s a bit of swearing in it, but please don’t let that deter you. When reading it, at first I was a little uncomfortable with how the English language was used (because I’m so used to reading books written in a certain way) but it adds to the authenticity of the story. Please, give this book a try, and then tell me what you thought, because I would love to have a conversation!